A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
What's the story?
Cass carries around a backpack with survival gear, supposedly because her father was killed by lightning, except he wasn't, so it's not really an excuse. Max-Ernest is an incessant chatterbox, which lands him in therapy and social pariah-hood. They team up to look into a mysterious coded message left in the belongings of an elderly magician who apparently died in a fire.
What they find is a group of mysterious immortals who kidnap children with synesthesia, for reasons that never become completely clear, but are apparently connected to their method of prolonging life. When a boy from their school is kidnapped, they decide to try to rescue him.
Is it any good?
The fun part is the mystery: Children with a taste for this kind of thing will enjoy the clues and codes, and will wish for more of them. Some will be immediately obvious to many kids, while others are more clever, but this part of the story is a fairly humorous romp. The dreary part is the author's voice: Apparently trying to take a leaf from Lemony Snicket's books, he gives incessant warnings about how dangerous it is to read the book; this, combined with the utter lack of anything that justifies the build-up, comes across as lame at best and annoying at worst.
The sum of these parts, along with some plot holes and lapses in logic, make for a book that is modestly entertaining at times and irritating at others. But given the dearth of books in this particular genre of lighthearted mysteries involving codes and a touch of the supernatural, kids who loved Lemony Snicket's or Blue Balliett's books will want to read this too.